The weather was even worse on Wednesday than on Tuesday. Rain all morning. Instead of a cameo appearance at the office I worked a full half day, then went into Manhattan for Wednesday comic shopping (the bright side of the dreary day) and visited a couple bookstores before heading out to tennis. Got there 3:15-3:30 and court drying started 3:40ish.
Court drying for qualifying is not done with the same speed as what you might see after a main draw rain delay on a show court. Not near as much manpower put on the task. Several years ago armies if squeegee people were put out. Now they have zamboni like machines to suck up moisture and modified leaf blowers which are incredibly obnoxious to be near. A few minutes quicker than with the squeegees but so unpleasant.
Drying starts on the larger outside courts then outward to the most outlying where the least interesting matches have been put. I started out watching a women's match on Court 7 because it was dry and going around 4:40 and I could see when the match I wanted to see on Court 5 was ready. Which ended up being 40 minutes later a full set in on Court 7.
While watching on Court 7, I look a few feet away and see a man who looks just like Patrick McEnroe. Can't be, can it. He's in civvies and Patrick is always wearing a suit on TV. Was Patrick. I sneak a peek after at the credential of one of the people he was talking to and it says Jose Higueras, who is one of the coaches working with the USTA on player development, which is one of the things Patrick works on. This is one of the nice things about going to the quallies, that you never know who might pop in to the seat next to you. But enough about Court 7, neither the 20-year old American, Madison Brengle, or the 24 year-old French woman Claire De Gubernatis, figure to be lasting parts of the Open. Over on Court 6, which doesn't have a lot of seating, you've got two Americans playing, Amer Delic and Michael Yani. If you've got two Americans and they're not playing on Court 7 or 11, or maybe 10 or 13, that's a clear sign that great things are not expected.
Court 5 was chosen because I'd heard of neither, a player for Portugral by the name of Leonardo Taveras, and from Spain, Guillermo Alcaide. An epic battle of the Iberian peninsula. Check out the stats, the two are very even, 24 and 26, 115K or 135K in career prize money, 30Ks this year, ranked 200 give or take, career high ranks very similar. It is a fairly tight match, I do think it's Alcaide who is the better player, and who wins, 6-4 and 6-2. Neither seems really great, it's one of those decent first round matches that reminds you often can't cast judgments until later rounds when you see two players that look good playing someone very similar going against someone 80 spots higher in the rankings. On the next court over, there's a 22-year old from Belgium, Ruben Bemelmans, playing against another of those QSF (Qualifying Since Forever) guys Thiago Alves from Brazil, who may be better than either person on Court 5, even though he's maybe 20 ranking spots better and 2 years younger. Alves makes a Frank Dancevic from yesterday seem like Federer. 28 years old, pro for ten years, never above 88 in the rankings.
I stick around to watch Italian Simone Bolelli against Hungarian Andreas Haider-Maurer. Bolelli I've heard of, he'd gotten as high as #36 in the world. But he's no great shakes, I even think the 24 years old from Hungary may be playing better even if he isn't winning. Bottom line, I"m really bored by the match. I don't do this often, but I decide to leave. Haider-Maurer does stage a comeback to win the match in three sets, and maybe it would have been interesting to watch but I kind of think not. No regrets. But I can keep Haider-Maurer in mind, maybe, for round 2.
It's been a long time I've been in the area of courts 6/7 and 4/5 so I wander a bit, end up settling a few games in on the other side of the grounds, Court 15 for Hungarian Attila Balazs against Italian Matteo Viola. Hadn't heard of either,don't get to see many Hungarians. If you're clicking links to the bios or reading in detail you'll notice that a lot of the players in the qualifying aren't 18 year old prodigies, like several years ago when I saw QSF Jeff Salzenstein drummed out of the quallies by Marco Baghdatis. You hope to see that future top 10 player, most of the time you don't. So on Court 15, you've got a 21-year old and a 23-year old. I think there's more life in watching Attila at 23, but he also seems a little loose in his playing and goes down to the slightly older Italian. Today's results aside, Balazs may be going into the top 100 some day, I'd be surprised if Viola is going to go far beyond his current rank of 264.
The next match aborning of interest is on Court 9, with Andre Begemann of Germany against Robert Farah of Columbia. I think I've vaguely heard of Farah, though looking at his ranking or his Google results I can't figure why. Solid USC player but I don't follow the college game. Begemann is a German journeyman whom I don't think I've seen before. It's somewhat a tight match, and not bad to watch. And then... a little after 8, drops start falling. Begemann isn't happy when the chair umpire takes them off the court when he has a chance to break back early in the 2nd set, having won the first. but the lines are dried, players go back on for a point or two. But the rain, extremely light as it is, keeps coming. Players sit down again. Rain still light but getting heavier. And the problem now is that it's just heavy enough that it isn't just the lines that would need to be dried, because now the courts are wet. Not very wet, hardly wet at all, but wet enough that it would be a bit drying them. Players go back to locker rooms, they ain't coming back. Frustrating. The very light rain stops before I'm three or five minutes away, you can see the skies are clearing, even see a star or two, but in the quallies if the players go back to the locker room after dark, they're not coming back. That's a difference between the main draw just about anywhere where you've got way more money at stake, here not really.
Vanilla chip at at the Lemon Ice King, and unlike last night there's a bocce game going on which I watch while enjoying my ice. My vanilla ice is so, so, so good I want to have another, but I tell myself I can't, haven't worked off the calories near enough. Tomorrow is another day...
You can go deep into my August 2008 archives and maybe one in September for posts on my last visit to the quallies. I wasn't much excited about anyone then, let's hope for better this year...
- The Brillig Blogger
- A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.